Putta-A-Fork-In-It Puttanesca

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It’s been two months of major changes in our household: two new jobs, new school, potty training, no more baby bottles, toddler bed to queen size, new nanny, first airplane ride with the kids. Change is hard. So this weekend was the beginning of a recommitment to my mind and body, and therefore my family. On Friday I finally joined the gym and reactivated my Weight Watchers app, and today I spent a majority of the day solo parenting to give my husband – who is my soldier in the trenches of the night – a much deserved break. These things may seem so simple and even carefree to most people, but the truth is these tasks seem insurmountable when you’re in a lousy state of mind.

When the membership director asked me what my fitness goal was I joked “To get here.” But what IS my goal here? I have a few. To not loudly sigh in annoyance at 4:30am when the baby screams through the monitor, to not slam the fridge door a bit too hard just to make a point, to go to bed tired in a good way and wake up refreshed (that’s one’s crazy!) and most importantly to find a meaningful getaway that gets me out of the house in a bad moment and do something good for my body. I will tell you jumping into a pool for water aerobics while listening to Lord of the Dance made me smile! So I guess you could say my ultimate goal here is to improve my attitude.

The nice thing about Weight Watchers is that nothing is “off limits”, just unashamedly tracked. So I don’t mind sharing today’s recipe for a vegan Puttanesca that is out of this world.

PUTTA-FORK-IN-IT PUTTANESCA

1 box spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 pint sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil
1 red onion, slivered into thin moon shapes
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 cup capers, drained
6 garlic cloves, diced
Olive oil

Boil pasta “al dente” according to package instructions, typically 10 minutes. While cooking, add a dollop of olive oil and cook onions and garlic on medium high heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add capers and cook additional 2-3 minutes. Finally, throw in tomatoes, olives and basil and cook 5 more minutes. Add about 1/8 cup olive oil to pasta then mix in puttanesca topping. Salt and pepper to taste.

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A good night…

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Child Safari and Bruschetta Pasta

bruschetta pastaBrunch for four turned into a child safari this past weekend as we hosted our first “adult” brunch in over a month – meaning, we made something with garlic and put out cloth napkins. As per our usual start to Sunday mornings, we began with a pot of strong coffee and Deadmau5. After herding our two boys to the table, we actually managed to eat food on plates, remain in our chairs and share complete stories for about seven blissful minutes. And then abruptly, there was more food was on the floor than on anybody’s plates as Asher announced he was DONE and Everett stubbornly stood up in his high chair after unbuckling his safety belt and my husband and I scrambled around alternatively picking up each child, wiping oily fingers, and placing them at enticing toy stations in hopes that they would entertain themselves for just a minute without choking on a Lego or making stabbing motions with their plastic Chefs knives from the toy kitchen. How dare we adults enjoy ourselves and sit on our butts when there is so much wreckage to be done?

And so, with an apologetic smile and a good-natured laugh, we respectfully invited our brunch guests to join us upstairs to play in Asher’s room. And thus began the two-hour process of slowly upturning and investigating every room of the house which included; playing in Asher’s circus tent while Everett took a nose dive into the empty bath down the hall, settling in small uncomfortable nooks in the hallway as the kids practiced walking backwards, watching in horror as Asher threw all our dirty laundry out of the hamper, playing catch with a bouncy ball in the master bedroom, changing several diapers in the middle of the floor, and nestling in the den to watch three episodes of “Batman”. And throughout the madness of it all, our very dear and very patient friends Adam and Alexia never politely excused themselves with an undertone of “… NEVER AGAIN…”

And so today I am grateful. Grateful for friends. Grateful for flexibility. Grateful for my husband who is willing to listen to our toddler scream all day long that he ONLY wants mommy, and grateful for pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company which makes it all worth while. So come join us for our next Child Safari brunch, or host your own with today’s simple recipe for Bruschetta Pasta!

BRUSCHETTA PASTA
1 pound of linguine pasta (my photo depicts angel hair)
1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes soaked in water for 15 minutes
4 large Roma tomatoes
1 bunch of fresh basil
1 cup medium green olives, pitted
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and pulse until blended but still chunky. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook 8 minutes. Drain well then combine with tomato mixture and toss until the pasts is coated. tomatoes

Cashew Tomato Basil Soup

Cashew Tomato Basil SoupI’m all jazzed up this week because I just purchased the Breville JE98XL and am delving into the wonderful messy world of juicing. My goal is to increase my family’s nutrition intake, beat off the winter blues, and fight off this plague that has kept me on antibiotics, nasal spray and an inhaler for the first time since I was in grade school.

Weeeeell this morning I made the mistake of making beet juice for my 3-year-old. At the same time that the bright red substance projected through Asher’s straw onto the floor, Everett fell backwards while pushing his plastic shopping cart, biting his tongue hard enough that blood poured out of his mouth. At that precise moment our house alarm went off. Our unfortunate nanny had opened the front door, unbeknownst that we had changed the alarm setting to the “silent for 10 seconds then all hell breaks loose”, which then caused the fattest of our three cats to jump the baby gate onto the stair landing, knocking over almost everything within a two-mile radius.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m kind of digging soups and juices this week. I am especially proud of this Cashew Tomato Basil Soup I created based on a simpler recipe that called for cream and chicken stock. Boo! The rich creamy cashew puree and the fresh pop of thyme combined with the roasted tomato basil base is simply put – spectacular. Spectacular enough to take my mind off the beet stain. For now.

CASHEW TOMATO BASIL SOUP
1 1/2 cups whole raw, unsalted cashews
3 lbs Roma tomatoes, sliced lengthwise (or any tomatoes you find on sale!)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced (approximately one bunch)
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 bunches of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Place 1 1/2 cups of cashews in a bowl of water and soak for at least 12 hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread tomato halves onto a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and roast tomatoes for about 1 hour. During the last 3 to 4 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler to get a bit of roasted char on the tomatoes. While tomatoes are in the oven, add a generous dollop of olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and basils, then season with salt and pepper. Stir the mixture and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Pour 2 cups of water and then roasted tomatoes into the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cashews from their water and add to the soup. Using a hand blender, puree the soup for 5 or 6 minutes until a rich creamy consistency.

Vegan Spring Rolls, for Type-A Personalities

haircutTwo things happened this week. It snowed. And Asher had his first haircut. Both were unpleasant experiences, but mercifully short-lived and the results were admittedly delightful!

spring roll As a result of the cold weather, I decided to make a Thai coconut soup with fresh spring rolls for dinner and was blown away at how EASY the spring rolls were to make. Seriously. They had a lovely freshness from the mint and basil, balanced with the crunchy colorful vegetables and the flavorful dipping sauces.

I just stocked up on chili garlic sauce ($2), plum sauce ($2), rice paper rolls ($2), extra firm tofu ($1.50) and some crunchy fresh veggies totalling my cost at under $10 for several night’s worth of spring rolls. My only gripe is the prep work in julienning and dicing, but it was a one-time task while Asher and Everett played in their toy kitchen and now my little Virgo heart is singing at all the organized containers in the fridge for the week!

THAI VEGETABLE SPRING ROLLS
Rice paper rolls
Bean sprouts
English Cucumber, julienned with skin on
Romain lettuce, thickly shredded
1 bag carrots, peeled and julienned
1 bunch cilantro, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch mint, washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh Thai basil (or regular basil), washed dried and coarsely chopped
1 container of Extra Firm Tofu (prepared as per my earlier post Roasted Tofu Special Treat)

Lay out a clean dish dowl on the counter. Soak once rice paper roll in a bowl with warm water for 30 seconds, then remove and lay falt on the dish towel to rest for 30 seconds. Evenly distribute a medium pinch of lettuce, mint, basil, and cilantro in the middle of the square. Top with carrot, cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu – but don’t overfill! Make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed from one end to the other leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the left and right sides inward like a burrito, then fold bottom over and complete rolling the remaining half. I found that the rice paper rolls tend to stick to counter tops, so it was helpful to peel them off the dish towel and try to get a tighter roll. These can also be made a day ahead, just wrap in fridge and cover with a wet paper towel to keep moist overnight.

Also, for those that are following Weight Watchers these are only 2 points each. Can I get an “Oh yeah”

Potty Parties and Eggplant Rollatini for LOOOOONG DAYS

eggplant 1 eggplant 2 After four hours of a naked toddler “potty party” as raved about on the internet, which included an obscene amount of salty toddler snacks and apple juice last Friday, we finally managed to get Asher to pee in his potty! It took three accidents on the carpet and an episode of “Curious George” while he sat naked on the potty for 26 minutes, but hey it’s a step in the right direction. He still talks about our little “potty party” which was enjoyed by exactly no one, and when we ask if he wants to have another party he simply says “NAH, maybe after tomorrow.”

So today’s recipe I share NOT because it is impressive or even original, I share it because it is easy to prepare when you are having a day of insurmountable exhausting tasks like my whole weekend felt. You’ll be grateful because it lasts in the fridge for a few days, and it’s a healthier dinner option that tastes like deep dish pizza that your whole family can enjoy.

EGGPLANT ROLLATINI
2 medium eggplants
32 oz tub of part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded skim mozzarella
1 bunch of chopped basil
1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
2 cloves of garlic, diced
1 jar of marinara sauce
Olive oil spray
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375. Cut the two ends off the eggplant and slice lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices. Arrange on two baking sheets, then spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt to remove moisture and bitterness from the eggplant. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl add ricotta, mozzarella, basil, spinach and garlic and about 1/3 jar of marinara. You can use a hand blender to smooth the texture of the cheese stuffing or leave as is. Place 1 tablespoon of cheese stuffing onto one end of an eggplant slice and roll in your hand. This might be messy! Line them up immediatly after rolling in 13 x 9 casserole dish, then top with remaining marinara and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes.